I suffer from chronic pain. My version is neuralgia. Neuralgia is a “stabbing, burning, and often severe pain due to an irritated or damaged nerve.” The nerve(s) can be anywhere in the body. Mine are in my head. I have trouble with my left and right trigeminal nerves caused by damage I sustained in a car accident twenty-three years ago.
Neuralgia is agonizing. I struggle to find the words that will explain how truly awful it is. Misery. Agony. Torture. Unbearable. Insane.
It’s like having a pickaxe slam into my head at random intervals twenty-four hours a day for close to a week. It near to makes me crazy at times.
I function when it flares. I take my pills. I get up. I go out, I do things, I write. I don’t exercise much but mostly I carry on with life. Albeit with a degree of bitching and moaning. But I carry on. Which means, the people in my circle, the people I encounter, don’t think it’s all that bad.
And when I can’t pull it together, when I can’t rise above the pain to think much less function and instead beg off visits and plans, they get testy. There is a downside to soldiering on. People fail to appreciate the magnitude of the struggle.
But what am I supposed to do? Take to my bed for a week every month or three weeks? Because that’s how often I get attacks. Ten to fifteen times a year, a week’s duration on average, for twenty-three years. Should I give up that much of my life to prove that I suffer? What good would that do? How, exactly, would it serve me?
It doesn’t surprise me that neuralgia is among the leading causes of suicide with chronic pain sufferers. It is utterly brutal.
There is a surgical treatment available. You can have the nerves severed. Possible side effects include trouble swallowing, trouble breathing, and facial paralysis. I have not signed up.
I get that other people’s problems are not our problems. My pain is my issue. And, I deal with it. But I wish sometimes that people wouldn’t assume I’m overreacting or have a low pain threshold. No Susan, I’m not that desperate for attention. No, I’m not faking it or courting drama. And yes, your cousin’s neighbour’s sister’s migraines sound absolutely awful too.
I don’t need sympathy. Okay, maybe a little. Coddling when you feel punk is nice. But understanding would be okay too. If I never here the question, “again?” when I tell people I’m suffering a flare-up, that’d be great. Chronic actually means chronic.
I get that my pain is a source of irritation and frustration for those around me. I’m sorry that people with chronic conditions are an inconvenience. But perhaps instead of getting irritated and impatient, people could try empathy. I get that other people’s problems can be difficult and inconvenient for people.
How do you think people who are actually feel suffering feel?
Be kind. You never know what someone is going through.